Sound the Alarm: Tommy De Nys (Les Ateliers Claus)

Tommy De Nys manages programming, communications, and administration at Les Ateliers Claus: I feel as though everyone is powerless, but doing nothing is not an option.” He also pays bass guitar with Steve Gunn and Ignatz.

“We can’t just keep waiting,” Tommy De Nys says. “Even if everybody barely gets paid and the events make a loss.” Ten days ago, he organized such a three-day event at the cultural hub LaVallée, with performances for one hundred music lovers, and on 11 and 12 September, Les Ateliers Claus is heading to the Circularium, the centre of innovation and circular production on an old industrial site in Anderlecht. This autumn, there are also scheduled shows in the Molenbeek arts centre Q-O2 and Kanal.

In other words, there will be many extra muros events because with the current corona measures, Les Ateliers Claus only has space for 22 people. “It’s absurd because we need at least one hundred of our maximum capacity of 180 to be able to operate,” De Nys says. “That is why we started focusing on residencies. Until December, artists like Schroothoop and Ben Bertrand will be able to rehearse, compose, and record here. The idea is that this will result in an album, and that they will at least be able to earn something. Normally that is guaranteed by our revenue from the bar and ticket sales.”

Les Ateliers Claus had just invested in a new sound system and recording equipment at the beginning of this year. “We suddenly had a shortfall of 40,000 euro. We were able to get out of the red by becoming technically unemployed.”

Les Ateliers Claus will manage to survive this, De Nys thinks. “We have the good fortune not to have to pay rent because the building belongs to the Claus family. But it is a great shame that the government is responding so passively to the needs of the cultural sector. There is always a delay in the way the new measures affect us. I wonder if anyone from the department of culture or any virologists have actually gone to look at the concrete situation of cultural organizations. I feel as though everyone is powerless, and that the sector itself thus cannot generate very much energy. But doing nothing is not an option.”

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